Higher subsidies proposed for ecology protectors

By Cao Yin, Rong Xiandong and Wang Ru (China Daily)
Updated: 2014-03-13 08:35

Higher subsidies proposed for ecology protectors

Workers pick up garbage floating in the Three Gorges reservoir in Yichang, Hubei province. During the two sessions, members called for an increase in the allowance provided to those working in ecological development to motivate more people to get involved. Zheng Jiayu / Xinhua

Deputies at the ongoing two sessions called on the government to establish a system for compensating residents who make a contribution to the nation's ecology.

Although ecological awareness is on the rise, deputies at the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, insist that increased subsidies are necessary to motivate more people to get involved.

Allowances for businesses that protect ecology are far from high enough, said Li Jinghao, an NPC deputy from Jilin province, home to the forests of Mount Changbai.

Li urged the legislature to make a law to increase and regulate ecological compensation, aiming to better protect forests.

Bo Guangxin, another deputy from Jilin, echoed Li, saying that what residents who plant or keep trees receive is less than what they pay.

Take Jilin as an example. The forests in the province discharge more than 60 million metric tons of oxygen every year, "but the forest's keepers get little in return for their efforts and sacrifices on behalf of ecological protection," Bo said.

"These residents have opportunities for businesses in nearby forests, but they don't take them. They are unwilling to cut trees, and some of them have spent their whole lives in protecting the ecology," he said.

The current small allowances are insufficient and frustrate the residents, Bo said.

"I think those who benefit from forest-related businesses, or even destroy the forests, should pay the subsidies for those who protect the ecological regions," he said.

The topic was also a hot one in the Jiangxi and Hubei delegations.

Yan Gangjun, an NPC deputy from Jiangxi province, keeps a protective eye on Poyang Lake and wetlands, and takes care of those who sacrifice their own interests to promote the ecology.

At present, people who give up other businesses to protect migrant birds and plant trees in the natural regions of Jiangxi get about 200 yuan ($32.50) as an allowance per 0.07 hectare, which Yan characterized as "too little for such a significant job".

He suggested the government should raise the subsidy to 400 or 500 yuan and set up a payment system as soon as possible.

The sooner the system is established, the sooner ecological interests will be accelerated across the country, he said.

Provincial Governor Lu Xinshe agreed, but he called on the government to compensate first those residents who are engaged in protecting cross-regional or cross-basin ecology, as well as wetlands.

Also, protecting ecological regions in Shiyan, Hubei province, should be also taken into consideration, Mayor Zhang Weiguo said, because it serves as a core water resource area for China's massive South-to-North Water Diversion Project.

The project, one of the nation's largest infrastructure concepts, is designed to take water from the Yangtze River to drought-prone areas in the north, including Beijing.

But at the moment, several authorities, such as financing and environmental departments, have failed to coordinate because there are no laws clarifying their responsibilities, Zhang said.

Ecological compensation can come through government subsidies, with technological and industrial support from the beneficiaries of water diversion and other benefits from market mechanisms, he added.

Zhou Hongyu, vice-chairman of the Hubei provincial legislature, agreed that the current environmental laws need to be improved and said the ecological subsidy must be put on the agenda, even though it is complex.

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Liu Kun contributed to the story.